Spiritual home: Manly take on Brisbane at Brookvale Oval. Would fans follow the Sea Eagles to a bigger venue?

Spiritual home: Manly take on Brisbane at Brookvale Oval. Would fans follow the Sea Eagles to a bigger venue? Photo: Getty Images

Russell Crowe was expected to make the long, hard journey from Woolloomooloo to the SCG on Friday night to watch Souths take on Manly, but cancelled at the last minute.

Will Sea Eagles fans do the same? Whether they like it or not, whether they receive a $20 million upgrade to the ‘‘shithole’’ of Brookvale Oval, they better get used to making the long trip to the city.

Not much to say: Stephen Dank.

Not much to say: Stephen Dank. Photo: Getty Images

It emerged last week that Manly’s spiritual home was set to receive a long-overdue facelift. Half of that money has been pledged by Prime Minister Tony Abbott – who is, coincidentally, the Member for Warringah. The other half is set to come from NSW Premier Mike Baird – who is, coincidentally, the member for Manly – although we have been told that nothing is assured.

It appears to fly directly in the face of the state government’s stated policy of ensuring the larger Allianz and ANZ stadiums are dragged into this century instead of pumping millions into decaying suburban grounds.

Upgrades of Brookie have been mooted and even promised for decades, oddly around election time, but there’s a belief this one will actually happen. We’re told it will resemble a beefed-up version of Redfern Oval: more centre of excellence and community hub than regular home ground.

So where does that leave Manly fans? It leaves them in the same position they’re in for this blockbuster against Souths: jumping on a ferry or bus and coming to Moore Park. Like Jim Carrey’s character in The Truman Show, Sea Eagles supporters have a real fear when it comes to travelling over water – but it is something they must overcome because the NRL wants Manly’s headline matches played at Allianz Stadium.

Having relocated to ANZ Stadium years ago, Souths are using this match as a litmus test to gauge support closer to the CBD. The Rabbitohs faithful who remain furious that their club calls Sydney Olympic Park home should respond with their bottoms, placing them in the comfy green plastic seats of the cricket ground. But how many Manly fans decide to turn up will determine the crowd size.

Given it’s one versus two, in a potential grand final rehearsal, between a side favoured to win the premiership and one that has dramatically shot into contention, between two sides that despise each other, at a new-look SCG, where you can order beers and food to your seat from your phone, the crowd should nudge the capacity of 50,000. Instead, it is looking more  like 30,000. If it’s less than that, it’s a failure.

Comparisons to the AFL and Melbourne, and arguments that rugby league is better watched on TV are too simplistic when wading into the murky waters of Sydney crowd figures.

The NRL does not entirely endorse a two-stadium policy, as the AFL does in Melbourne, but there is a concerted push towards the headline matches being played in the bigger stadiums.

Melbourne doesn’t have the conundrum of Manly: a powerhouse club with a suburban home ground sitting on the faraway northern peninsula that can feel as far flung as Botswana in peak hour. But Brookvale Oval and Pittwater Road will require a Joan Rivers-like facelift if it’s to be a stadium worthy of hosting NRL blockbusters.

Sydney’s sporting landscape will change dramatically in the next few years. The introduction of light rail to Moore Park and Royal Randwick, and the $3.4 billion WestConnex motorway that will allow those in the city to be parking at ANZ Stadium within 20 minutes, means the Sydney sports fan will soon start to feel the love.

Neither, though, helps the Manly supporter, who will still be faced with the bane of every Sydneysider’s existence: lots and lots of other people.

SPORTS SILENCE

Former Sharks strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin broke an 18-month silence to Fairfax Media last Saturday to tell his side of the supplements story.

I called the elusive sports scientist Stephen Dank. It was a short but interesting conversation. ‘‘We know the truth,’’ Dank said. ‘‘If anyone tries to write or say anything outside the lines of the truth ...  I’m just giving you a friendly warning.’’

I gave Dank plenty of opportunities to tell his version of the truth, but he declined.

It seems Dank’s lawyer, Greg Stanton, is tired of the entire episode. ‘‘Is this about Stephen Dank?’’ Stanton said when phoned last week.

Yes. Yes it is.

‘‘No!’’ Stanton said abruptly, before hanging up.

PERFECT PAIR OF GENES

From partying on yachts with Justin Bieber in Ibiza, Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik shot a Just Jeans commercial with Roosters star Sonny Bill Williams on Wednesday. Williams posted an image of the genetically perfect pair on Instagram.

That’s all well and good, but I can tell you all of them are lucky to be alive after this column spotted the shoot while driving along Campbell Street, near the Surry Hills cop shop.

Production staff were basically blocking off half the road, much to the chagrin of the slobs making their way to work.

BEALE IN GREAT FORM

Waratahs players celebrated their Super Rugby victory at The Bucket List, the bar du jour of Bondi hipsters and other types with perfectly manicured beards and shirts with the top button done up.

Kurtley Beale was in the finest form – according to witnesses in the bar – but given the football revolution he’s undergone in the past year, from outcast at the Rebels to Waratahs hero, he deserved to enjoy the moment.

TIGERS TALE ALL TRUE

A week ago, Wests Tigers management and fans were condemning reports about the club being at war with itself as nothing more than media-driven craziness. The interview with captain Robbie Farah on The Footy Show last night confirmed ’twas all true.

One line being pushed by the club is that coach Mick Potter placed pressure on himself by demanding a new three-year deal last month.

This is incorrect, according to people close to Potter.

As for Farah, many supporters are losing patience with him in much the same manner they lost patience with Benji Marshall.

He doesn’t help himself with selective morality.

Farah is furious at Gorden Tallis for ‘‘giving him up’’ on Triple M about his views on Potter, but then tweeted a private text message from the club’s media manager he received in the lead-up to Monday night’s match against Melbourne about not speaking at the post-match press conference. What’s the difference?

A TASTE OF ITALY

Sydney Olympic Park will turn into Norton Street on Sunday when Alessandro Del Piero steps out for the A-League All Stars against his former club Juventus at ANZ Stadium.

The precinct will be filled with Italian food stalls, street theatre and budding Pavarottis as Del Piero prepares to play his last match on Australian soil against the Italian powerhouse.

While the game won’t sell out like the Manchester United fixture last year, expect something around 65,000.

Q & A THOMAS BROICH

We speak with Brisbane Roar’s German superstar before the A-League All Stars match against Juventus at ANZ Stadium.

German reporters at the World Cup said your name whenever I mentioned I was from Australia. Does that surprise you?

Yes and no. To this day, I still get a lot of interest. German journalists still call.

Thoughts on Germany winning? They celebrated well.

They won it in style, too, especially the semi-final [when Germany beat Brazil 7-1]. That is a legendary game. It felt unreal watching that. Seeing them demolish them was outstanding.

You played with a lot of those players in the German under-21s team. Do you allow yourself to think what could’ve been?

Now and then. Back then, we were in the same team. I wasn’t far off. Some moved on to achieve a lot of big things. Some didn’t have the quality, and I guess I was one of them. That’s just how life is. I have no regrets.

It’s been a different career for you.

I think the fact I ended up here in Australia. More than anything, happiness matters. To be fair and frank, I wasn’t happy in the Bundesliga. I wasn’t happy with the pressure and was quite frustrated. I found my passion for the game playing here.

What’s it mean to be playing with Alessandro Del Piero in his last match on Australian soil?

It’s not just his last game, but it’s against Juventus as well. That makes it even more special. It’s a really cool occasion.

You played against Man United last year, now Juventus. Get star-struck at all?

Not at all. You’re mindful that they have a different quality than your usual opposition. But it’s more about enjoying it. It was more excitement than nervousness. You get to measure yourself against the best. For a split second, the result goes around the world and people take notice on what’s happening in Australia.

Who do you admire the most in that Juventus side?

I love Pirlo. I guess everybody does. He’s just so majestic out there. I really rate Vidal.

THE QUOTE

‘‘My money is on the Crusaders.’’ – All Blacks great and Tahs kicking coach Andrew Mehrtens in the Herald last week. Oh the irony, then, of Bernard Foley’s 45-metre penalty to seal the Super Rugby deal for NSW.

THUMBS UP

Sally Pearson maintained a dignified silence after Eric Hollingsworth’s calculated and public attack on her before the 100-metre hurdles at the Commonwealth Games. Then she ripped out a win – and then ripped into the disgraced head coach.

THUMBS DOWN

The AFL gets so many things so right, but its match review panel is so very wrong. Richmond’s Reece Conca ran after GWS’s Devon Smith at the weekend, then delivered a flying elbow to the back of his head – and receives a measly two-match ban?

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